Friday, August 04, 2006


One of the courses I'm teaching this coming year is an introduction to Canadian film and television. I taught a similar course at Brock in 2005, but focused specifically on Canadian television. I love teaching, so it goes without saying that I had a great time and am really looking forward to throwing some Canadian film into the mix this time around (if nothing else, I'll be able to expose more people to Ham and Cheese). Canada's cultural policies, not surprisingly, play a huge role in the course just as they have in our cultural production, for better or worse. My background and interest in television means I'm more knowledgeable about broadcasting policy than film production, which has a fairly obvious patriarchal and pedagogical bent – a propensity for proclaiming what’s best for Canadian audiences that often results in embarrassingly unpopular programming. Don’t misinterpret that, I love and will passionately defend some Canadian television (KITH, DaVinci's Inquest, The Hilarious House of Frightenstein - which Space is going to start airing again in the fall to my immense delight, Degrassi, Prisoners of Gravity, This Hour Has Seven Days, and Straight Up, to name only a very small handful), but others really shouldn’t have ever made it past the programming directors. Canadian television production and broadcasting policies are intimately bound up in nationalism, the idea that our cultural products are capable of expressing a uniquely Canadian identity in the face of an overwhelming American presence in our popular culture. We’re not the only nation-state to adopt this strategy – Australia and New Zealand are also battling to retain public broadcasting as a form of citizen glue – but as Graeme Turner points out in an article I read this afternoon, our proximity to the U.S. makes our situation significantly different. He says, “This is a geopolitical context in which a national television regulatory system has very limited possibilities, but in which the representation national difference is fundamentally important for cultural and political reasons. So, what do you do if you want Canadian television to do more for the Canadian community than it does at present?” It’s a good question. It’s something I've been thinking about, both in terms of how to teach Canadian cultural policy in a way that acknowledges both its positive and negative impact, and from the perspective of someone who’s got a sitcom script at the back of her head. The increasing transnational movement of media means that there is no longer an easy equivalence between television consumption and national identity, yet it still persists in policy and in commentary. This makes it hard to get students to look past seeing television texts as simple reflections of Canadian identity that magically build a cohesive citizenry. With no other framework readily available, Canadian film and television remain tricky political and cultural texts, and I mean that as a compliment. It’s why Bon Cop Bad Cop is on my must-see list.
You might also want to check out Dead Things On Sticks, and the Museum of Broadcast Communications entry on Canadian television.


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